Swiss Health Care System

The Swiss health care system is considered to be one of the best in the world and a model for other countries to follow. The quality of medical services provided in the country is second to none, and the issue of health care is always a top priority among all political parties of Switzerland.

According to the statistics of the OECD (or Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development), Switzerland is ranked among the top countries that spend the largest share of their GDP on health care. Regarding the Swiss health care system, the expenditures of the country are as high as 10% of the GDP, allowing the citizens to take advantage of the latest medical know-hows, technologies, and only recently created drugs.

swiss health care system

The costs of hospitalization in Switzerland are covered by the basic insurance

Indeed, such a high-quality system comes at a price, and you can get to know about how it works and who pays for it lower. However, one still has to say that Switzerland has one of the best ratios of well-qualified nurses to doctors (highest) and patient-to-doctor (lowest). This prompts the governments of many countries at least to take a look at the Swiss health care system and try to mimic some of its policies in the health sphere.

How the Swiss health care system works

Such a high-quality health care system actually comes at a cost, and so having a basic social insurance is mandatory in the country. There are no state-run medical funds or compulsory state insurances. On the contrary, one has to resort to using the services of private insurance companies in order to get at least a basic social insurance. Skip your worries about the limited choice: there are more than 60 private insurance companies operating in the market, and all of those companies are obliged to accept the clients of any gender, age, and the region of living.

In the Swiss health care system, the basic social insurance covers the costs of hospitalization and, partly, the medical treatment. However, a part of the medical treatment costs must be paid by the insured person. There are two ways of doing so: calculating an annual deductible or charging 10% or more of the excess costs.

When living and working/studying in Switzerland, keep in mind that there are no free medical services at all. So be prepared for the situation when you might be asked to show your health insurance. Of course, no one will ask you to do it in the case of a critical (life or death) situation, but you must be ready to pay a bill. The price of the insurance depends on the region where the insured person lives (because of the costs of transportation). Also, the prices vary between different insurance companies, yet the price must be calculated regardless of the age of the person.

health in switzerland

There are more than 60 private insurance companies in Switzerland, and you are able to choose any of those

The Swiss health care system in general and the mandatory basic social security in particular are regulated by the LAMal (Health Insurance Act), which was adopted in 1996. Since the country is not the member of the European Union, the medical sphere is regulated by its own laws.

Expats coming to Switzerland for work are obliged to comply with the Swiss laws and get a basic social insurance within the period of three months. The same stands for all newborn kids: each newborn must get a basic social insurance in a matter of three months. Keep in mind that your employer will not pay any contributions for your health insurance – all costs must be covered by you. Those people who are struggling to make ends meet are able to apply for a premium reduction to the authorities of their cantons and the Federation.

Dealing with doctors in the Swiss health care system

In the Swiss health care system, you have to find a doctor (general practitioner or GP) on your own. You might look for a doctor on the pages of magazines, via personal recommendations of your friends and familiar people, or on the following website: Once you have found a doc, you must question him and agree with him on what should you do in case of an emergency and beyond the surgery hours.

swiss health medicines

The costs of non-prescription drugs are not covered by the Swiss basic insurance

You are also able to find the phone numbers of the emergency services on the majority of Swiss phone books. For example, the phone number of ambulance is 144, whereas 117 is the phone number of police. In case of an emergency, you may get treatment in the majority of hospitals in Switzerland. Moreover, there are also hospitals in the French-speaking regions of the country that accept “mini” emergencies as well.

Regarding the non-emergency healing, you will have to be treated by your doctor. All the fees have to be paid either by your insurance company or by you. This way, you have also got a proof why the medical services and medicines are among the most expensive ones in Europe.

The Swiss health care system and pharmacies

You can easily buy the medicines you need in the local pharmacies of your town/region. Those pharmacies can be recognized without any problems: there is a sign of a green cross on their buildings. However, keep in mind that the price of medicines in the Swiss pharmacies is among the most expensive on the continent.

Similar to Germany, many medicines (1/3 of all available medicines) require a Rezept (prescription) in order to be sold. You can get a prescription from your general practitioner. Of course, without a prescription you will not be able to buy such drugs. All drugs that require a prescription are covered by the basic insurance: you pay for the medicines and, later, get a reimbursement. However, you will not get a reimbursement of the total sum, but just 90% of it.

At the same time, 2/3 of all available medicines are sold without a prescription, freely, and the companies (drug producers) are able to determine the prices of such drugs on their own. Thus, the cost of such drugs is typically not covered by the insurance. If you have an additional insurance, a part of the costs spent on such drugs might be covered, according to the terms of your insurance contract.

There are two ways of paying for the medicines in the Swiss health care system: via an insurance card and via receipts and reimbursements. Some companies grant you a card, with the help of which you will pay at a drugstore. You just give it to the seller in the pharmacy and, then, the pharmacy sends a bill to the insurance company. After it, the insurance company will bill you for those 10% of the cost. Other companies just let you pay for the drugs and reimburse you after receiving a receipt from you.

Considering that the price of medicines is so high in Switzerland, it may be wise to bring some of the medicines you need from your home country, including cold remedies, painkillers, and, if needed, means of fighting migraines and asthma.

Useful sources

You might need to take a look at the following sources in order to get to know more about the Swiss health care system:

The Federal Office of Public Health of Switzerland

Swiss Health